84 Charing Cross Road

Set in 50s England and East Coast America this gentle tale records the correspondence between a bookshop employees and  a mail order customer.

Anthony Hopkins (Chief Buyer Doel (rhyming with Noel)) and Ann Bancroft (Writer Helene Hanf ) lead but never meet on camera. A sweet story based on Hanf’s eponymous book of the actual correspondence. Originally made as a television play (Cullingham, 1975) then  on to the stage in the West End and Broadway as a two-character version.

As a film the dramatic personae were expanded to include friends of Hanf, the bookshop staff, and Doel’s wife Nora (Judy Dench).

The film spans twenty years of correspondence mostly between the chief protagonists. The unpromising premise is managed beautifully using a combination of voice overs, delivering a monologue while typing or even reading out the letters while another character is on his deathbed.

The mis en scene of period locations in both UK and US are perfect as is the costume which on the Americans is suitably sumptuous while the English are suffering post war austerity for most of the film.  IMDb identifies the genre as biography, drama and romance which would be attractive to an adult audience. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0090570/fullcredits?ref_=tt_ql_1

Bancroft won a BAFTA Award as Best Actress while Dench was nominated for a supporting performance. Hopkins puts in a masterfully reserved performance, for instance just a raised eyebrow in a medium shot  denoting a reaction/ thought.

Screen Shot 2016-02-14 at 21.18.24

Reflection

The lovely attention detail makes  me realise how hard making a period piece would be. Budget, crew size , location and costume would be a a costly exercise for a budget film maker.

Long takes have impact..tricky to pull off at my level but impressive here.

A masterclass in delivering plain text on camera.

 

References

84, Charing Cross Road (1975) Directed by Mark Cullingham .

84 Charing cross road (1987) Directed by David Hugh Jones .

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